Steve Smith 09 Season a Mirage?


By Zack Cimini

One of the stunning rises amongst sleepers that actually came to life last year was Steve Smith. No not the Steve Smith of the Panthers who could not dispel Jake Delhomme’s horrid continuation of faltering. It was Steve Smith of the Giants. Anticipating his rise amongst the crop of Giants receivers was not predictable. While he backed up Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress he really showed no signs of being a starting wide receiver. Maybe it was the chemistry of having a player familiar with him that allowed Eli Manning to develop a natural rapport with Smith. Manning looked his way often to the tune of over 100 catches for 2009.

There are reasons to believe that Smith’s 09 season may be his all time high. As the season went on the Giants discovered they have a great young core of receivers. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham began to emerge after battling injury woes. They add a big play element that Smith does not possess. Coming off their solid years where they battled minor injuries, they should both be better prepared to handle a rigorous NFL season. Subtle things that receivers begin to pick up with the amount of talent they have will be second nature.

In years past Eli Manning was never a big threat for huge statistics. Last year was sort of a forced reckless attack with Eli’s arm for the Giants. They’re typically more reliant with their ground attack. With Brandon Jacobs ineffective while playing through injury and getting behind often, the Giants had to let Eli let it fly. They know that is not the approach they can have to get back to their winning ways.

Steve Smith was Eli’s safety net that proportionately would be the leader each game by almost two to one on any other Giants receiver. He actually finished with more catches total (107) than both Mario Manningham (57) and Hakeem Nicks (47) combined. That type of stark contrast is just not typical in this day and age of the NFL. Another key factor to look at is the Giants under utilized their tight end Kevin Boss. Boss did not have a horrible season from a tight ends perspective but we’d expect him to get a little more involved this year. A solid running game opens up the play action and streaks over the middle. Jacobs should be back 100 percent and that means Manning can have another threat to work off of over the middle.

Smith showed strong enough signs that he is a great possession receiver, there is no questioning that. Where we think he’ll lose a bit of luster is touchdown catches. Sure Manning did throw for 27 touchdowns and could equal or improve on that this year. It’s the guys behind him that worry us. Nicks (six touchdowns) and Manningham (8 touchdowns) did strong enough damage with touchdown receptions to figure they should only become a bigger part of the Giants attack in 2010. For the minimal amount of catches they had, dividing even an extra fifteen to twenty catches each would cause a significant fall for Smith.

When it comes time for your fantasy drafts it comes down to drafting Steve Smith as your second receiver, or banking on Manningham or Nicks increasing their play as your third or fourth receiver. For sure you do not want to have Smith as your overall number one but he’ll be safe as your second. The upside with Manningham and Nicks is tremendous. Expect a strong training camp battle to solidify that second wide receiver spot. New York has to be glad about one thing. They were able to shake off the Burress impact rants in less than a year. Their receiver core is young and going to be one of the strongest units in the league for some years to come.


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